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Join in and Seek out New Life!

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One of my sources here in Verden provided me with a recent newsletter from the regional Christian Democratic Union or CDU, a traditionally conservative party (which is to say that there is no noticeable political party on its right side on the German political spectrum). To give you an idea, it’s the party of Helmut Kohl and Angela Merkel.

The Modern Join-In Party

CDU: The Modern Join-In Party

The CDU here in Verden made a survey among its members in the Verden district and learnt from the feedback (no statistics given in the newsletter) that the CDU’s local work is viewed positively by the party’s grassroots, especially because it is strong and active in election campaigns.

Probably to become even stronger and still more active, the CDU in Lower Saxony wants to become a modern join-in party (Mitmachpartei). Member of (federal) parliament Andreas Mattfeld is happy to take the time to explain government policies as part of the join-in activities. That much about politics. Besides, the activities on offer…

… is multifaceted, so that for you, there will be something of interest for you, too. As a “join-in party”, we offer politics, sociality, and association! Such multifaceted awareness weeks have never happened here before, and certainly not by other political parties! I cordially invite you to join in yourselves! The schedule of the join-in weeks can be found on the back side.

Best regards

Adrian Mohr, CDU district chairman.

So it all begins with politics, i. e. Mr Mattfeld taking the time to explain government politics, on May 28. And that’s it, basically, as far as politics is concerned. They offer a walk through a forest, a bicycle tour, a cookery course at an Italian inn (with a maximum of ten participants), a refuse collection (not from the households, but on a public playground), OK… and a civic forum on “What kind of school do we want here?”.

Of course, the world football championship is also built into the join-in weeks. On June 13, after yet another bicycling tour, there will be a jumbotron – probably for the match Germany vs Australia. Which is good, because high spirits are almost guaranteed (safer than on an election night for the CDU these days), and there will be an opportunity to sing along with the national anthem.

May I give the CDU a bit of advice? Go to the grassroots and help people filling in their applications for dole-money (that’s what the PDS is doing), or with other stuff that endears you to strange new worlds.

Seek out new life! Your greatest potential is no longer at the “center”. Do away with Angela Merkel, and revive Heiner Geissler. And re-integrate Martin Hohmann to secure the right wing of your party, if Mr Geissler can put up with that (and if Mr Hohmann is still willing).

After all, political parties are about politics.


The real Statement on Dalai Lama, Obama

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JR claims to be a China expert. But this time, he has fallen for a crude piece of anti-China propaganda. Did he really believe that the government of China was still living in the woods, throwing fortune cookies with weird messages inside at Chinese and foreign journalists?

This is what the Chinese foreign ministry actually said. (All websites which quote spokesman Ma Zhaoxu otherwise are silly fakes):

We obviously don’t encourage foreign leaders to meet with the Dalai Lama. Such meetings aren’t conducive for our policies on Tibet, and we initially hoped that our American partners would take our domestic tasks and interests into account here. But if president Obama believes that a meeting with the Dalai Lama is a must for him, we have to respect his decision. After all, the Dalai Lama travels from India, not from our country.

I’d just like to say that such meetings do nothing to make America look more virtuous. We here in Beijing don’t think of ourselves as morally superior. The way we took control of Tibet in the 1950s and after isn’t a glorious point in our history, and we acknowledge that the way we govern Tibet needs a lot of improvement. Suggestions from anyone are welcome, provided that they are meant to help the Han Chinese and the Tibetans to improve their lives as Chinese citizens. But the American president and the American public must understand that Tibet is part of China, just as any U.S. state is part of the United States. As long as all sides are credibly committed to this position, our minds are open to their comments and contributions from inside and outside China.

We do what we can to gradually improve the lives of the Tibetans, just as we are working for the improvement of all Chinese citizens’ lives, no matter of which nationality they are. We do  not only take into account what we think is best for the Tibetans, but we also listen to the voices of the Tibetans themselves. Thank you, next question.

Wöltingerode/Vienenburg: a Humble Venue for a Humbly-abled Government

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Lower Saxony’s prime minister, Christian Wulff, seems to have a soft spot for Cistercian monasteries. He had his son baptised in Loccum, and this month, he took his cabinet to the monastery of Wöltingerode, in Vienenburg, the Harz mountains.

Wulff has been Lower Saxony’s prime minister since March 4, 2003. He is the member of a conservative party, the Christian Democrats. They are traditionally credited with knowing how to handle budgets. Ora et labora, the old rule of monastic order, was still true in our times, the prime minister told his ministers at the outset of the venue there in Vienenburg.

Some will become aware here how dramatic the situation is, the Nordwestzeitung quoted a government official. The Wulff government plans to slash some 1,500 jobs in the public service, and another 4.6 billion Euros of debt for the federal state. And public officers, whose jobs are basically safe, will need to get prepared for a retirement age of 67. And the state will need fewer teachers, Wulff suggests: the number of students would drop by almost 25 per cent. In short: after seven years of a party in government that knows how to handle money, we are bankrupt.

That would be reason to condemn Mr Wulff’s and his government’s performance. As long as they were in the opposition, a “Lower Saxonian public debt clock” was showing the latest digits in the Christian Democrat’s parliamentary group’s conference room. (I suppose they have either removed it, or have become blind to it.)

Another problem is that it’s impossible to see a policy in what Wulff and his ministers are now doing. Education is one of the few core jurisdictions of a German federal state (i.e. a member state of the German Federal Republic). So far I have only heard that there will be blood, sweat, and tears. But where is the enemy that needs to be overcome? And where is the glory that awaits us after victory? What, besides saving money, does this government want to achieve?

The federal state government’s communication skills either suck, or their jobs have been slashed long ago.

Syria Hurts Maliki’s Pride

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Damascus might find itself in the role of a broker between the Iraqi Ba’ath Party – once Saddam Hussein’s party in Iraq, and still Bashar al-Assad’s political vehicle in Syria.

Aleppo Baghdad Station: Staying Connected

Aleppo Baghdad Station: Staying Connected

An American military delegation led by Major General Michael Moeller of US Central Command had two days of talks in Syria – in Baghdad however, a lot of people aren’t pleased with the first indicators of a possible thaw between Washington and Damascus. Nuri al-Maliki announced a trip of his own to Syria for the next week – “It is not the duty of the American delegation to negotiate on behalf of Iraq,” his spokesman is quoted as saying. As the American troops withdrew from the Iraqi streets and cities on July 1, and Maliki announced on the occasion that it was the national united government [which] had succeeded in putting down the sectarian war that was threatening the unity and the sovereignty of Iraq, he will now be very sensitive about any possible loss of face.

Syria will be interested in bringing Saddam Hussein’s former deputy, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri (who has lived in Damascus since 2003), back into the game in Iraq. He is said to have been behind guerilla campaigns against the American occupation – and here lies a bone of contention between Damascus and Washington, as the U.S. demand the arrest of about a dozen of high-ranking supporters – or facilitators – of those campaigns.

The Iraqi Ba’ath Party is still seems to be sound and to be taking orders. Its cadres have received orders to resume political activity, writes The Telegraph.

If the new (or old) Ba’ath Party establishes itself in Iraq as a palladium of national resistance and gets legalised, and if it facilitates a rapprochement between Baghdad and Damascus, Iran might find its influence on Iraq further reduced – most Iraqis are Shia, just like most Iranians. But most Iraqis also see their country as Arabic, rather than as easy Iranian proxy. Saudi Arabia’s worries about a handover of Iraq to Iran could turn out to be unjustified.

And America may have restored an old business friend in Baghdad – not in control as it was during Rummy’s and Saddam Hussein’s happiest days, but still a substantial one. And Syria may get shopping options beyond Russia again. That said, its need for arms of a defensive character won’t be unlimited.

Written by taide

August 15, 2009 at 8:42 pm

German Warriors

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My great-grandfather was buried on Verden’s forest cemetary (Verdener Waldfriedhof). His grave is still there, and it is a nice one, because through all the past nine decades, my family people didn’t have to pay a single Pfennig or Eurocent in fees – it’s a hero’s grave.

He was a Private, but he was in such a hurry to take Paris that the German artillery didn’t keep step with him and his comrades. Many of them died in friendly fire, and on the spot. Great-Grandpa was less lucky. He pegged out several month later, in the Annastift in Hanover, minus most of his back.

When he was dead at last, they decorated him with the Iron Cross.

Then there was the second world war.

German society is post-heroic. Heroes too, are only victims in German eyes. The Bundeswehr is a citizen army, and  the federal parliament’s army. It still knows no heroes, and every embarrassing try to change that has been doomed to fail. Medals and cenotaphs give most of us the creeps, rather than causing respect.

Germany succeeded in building an army with uniformed citizens. The old military caste – fortunately – doesn’t matter in the army any more. Families with military traditions like they exist in Britain, France, or America, and which send officers into the army don’t exist in Germany any more.

But this also means that the soldiers won’t earn much respect here when sacrificing their lives for the nation, and its allies.

Some surveys suggest that about three quarters of Americans believe in circumstances which justify war. In Germany, 25 per cent may believe that. 170 years ago, Carl von Clausewitz coined the saying that war is merely a continuation of politics with the inclusion of different means (“Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik unter der Einbeziehung anderer  Mittel”). Most Germans don’t agree with this any longer, and they want no such extension of our foreign policy.

During the past eight years, German politics avoided the word “war” like the plague (which it obviously is), our politicians enacted a reconstruction operetta in Afghanistan which seemed to benefit everyone and to hurt noone, and they risked no candid communication with their constituencies about combat operations. Now the public (which never seemed to care much until now) is finding out that we are at war (the German defence secretary keeps cursing everyone who dares to use this dirty word), and obviously, few people are inclined to take our duties within NATO as serious as they should – those who accept the need for force of arms are the minority in this country.

Dishonourable? Maybe. But anyone who wants to criticise Germany’s sometimes convenient pacifism should also remember how hard it was to finish German militarism in the first place, and how many of their grandfathers died in the struggle. Having ones cake and eating it is yet another challenge. We are learning. But it will take time, and some more decent politicians. What the Social Democrats’ Peter Struck said about Afghanistan last month could be a beginning.

Thai Red Shirts: Surrender?

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SPIEGEL online: "demonstrators capitulate"

SPIEGEL online: "demonstrators capitulate"

Oh dear. Germany’s leading news magazine DER SPIEGEL declares the Bangkok protesters’ surrender.

Thailand Flag, Bangkok

Thailand Flag, Bangkok

But you see, the Songkran holidays are over. No wonder that there are no 100,000 people protesting outside the government offices any more. After all, nobody paid them for their protests, and they have to do something for a living.

That in the first place is what makes the red shirts different from the yellow shirts.

But the likely end of the protests – for now, anyway – changes nothing about the democracy deficit – it only highlights the problem. This time, the military and aristocracy have clearly taken sides – against the people.

Bangkok may turn calm now. But the elite’s refusal to involve the poorer people, including those in remote provinces like Isaan, in politics, will pose bigger threats to the future of the country than the civil war with Malaysia- and Saudi-Arabia-backed insurgents in the South.

Another lesson from this: Germany needs media that provide news. Hard to believe that once upon a time, DER SPIEGEL’s late editor, Rudolf Augstein, called the magazine “the assault artillery of democracy”. Not that there is need for DER SPIEGEL to take sides. Some more background information explaining the events would do.

Politics isn’t sports, but they do have something important in common: After the game is before the game. I’m wondering who will keep us informed.

History: Verden Police Commander’s Office Status Report

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October 1, 1945, para 5

The occupying forces’ conduct is restrained. However, the majority of the German population watches with growing disapproval an embarassing rise in dubious relations between the occupying force and a certain category of German women who, apparently excited about chocolate and cigarettes, completely discard their dignity […..]

Seven shillings straight in, fifteen shillings up the ***

Seven shillings straight in, thirteen shillings up the ***

Quote from Heimatkalender für den Landkreis Verden,
1990, p. 207.
Photo from Taide’s archive.